USCG Proposed Propeller Safety Regulations

The U.S. Coast Guard has requested public comments on propeller guards as well as comments on propeller guard regulations in the past. Currently there are no Coast Guard requirements for propeller guards on recreational vessels. This page provides information and links to the previous comments and proposals.

In recent times (2010/2011), USCG has been working toward some regulations and standards in the area of boarding ladder design (people cut their feet on the prop while boarding) and emergency kill switches (lanyards and virtual lanyards which could reduce the frequency of people being ejected and struck by a circling boat). These two regulations/standards certainly have some applications to propeller safety but are not direct propeller safety regulations.

Besides USCG, some states have proposed propeller guard regulations. One of the earliest proposals was a California Bill proposed in 1955 being discussed in the 5 Feb 1955 Long Beach Telegram on Page A3. A California legislator named Kilpatric proposed “every motor boat operating near swimmers would have to have a propeller guard.” Bill AB3038.

Proposed Propeller Guard Regulation and requests for public comments on those proposals have been historically announced in the Federal Register and are listed below in historical order:

  • Propeller Accidents Involving Houseboats and Other Displacement Type Recreational Vessels request for comments by the U.S. Coast Guard published in the 11 May 1995 Federal Register. Pg. 25191. This information was orginally collected in a Docket called CGD 95-041. The docket was later changed to USCG-2001-10299. They originally received about 100 comments. Later, the Coast Guard extended the period for comments at request of NASBLA in the Federal Register on 9 August 1995 Pg.40545. They received 1994 comments including over 1800 form letters.
  • On 26 Sept 1995 (60 Federal Register Pgs. 49531-49532 the Coast Guard announced the availability of the 1989 NBSAC Propeller Guard Subcommittee Report and that it has been placed in the docket.
  • Propeller Injury Prevention Aboard Rental Boats Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Published in the 26 March 1996 Federal Register. Pgs. 13,123 – 13,125. This notice requests comment and announces several public meetings for input toward potential future regulations in this area. Rental houseboats are specifically discussed.
    • The Coast Guard Requested Comments on the Effectiveness of Specific Devices in regards to the Propeller Injury Prevention Aboard Rental Boats Advanced Notice of Rulemaking above. Published in Federal Register 28 April 1997 Pgs 22991-22992.
    • The Coast Guard announced they only received two comments for their request for information on the effectiveness of specific devices above, and are extending the period for comments. Published in Federal Register 21 August 1997 Pg. 44507.
    • For a time, comments to the Docket above could be viewed by entering “10299” in the search box on the Dept. of Transportation web site. USCG has since moved its dockets to a different server and the old materials did not make the move. Then later, some of them began to show up. You can try to find them on regulations.gov
    • One comment of particular interest was from the Institute for Injury Reduction (IIR), a group of lawyers that became active against propeller injuries for a few years in the mid 1990’s. Their letter included a copy of the CDC study on propeller injuries, plus near the end, it listed an extensive bibliography the IIR put together.

The series of Public Hearings announced in the 26 March 1996 Federal Register. Pgs. 13,123 – 13,125 were held in the Spring of 1996 to solicit comments. Their minutes used to be online. We archived copies of them.

  • Public Comments 22 Apr 1996. Panama City FL.
  • Public Comments 22 Apr 1996 Rockport ME.
  • NAVSAC and NBSAC Joint Council Propeller Guard Public Comments 29 April 1996. San Francisco.
  • Public Comments 6 May 1996. Washington D.C.
  • Public Comments 19 May 1996 New Orleans.

Proposed Houseboat Propeller Injury Avoidance Measures Regulation

In 2002 the U.S. Coast Guard collected public comments on a proposal regulating mandatory propeller protection devices on houseboats. The collection period was extended till May 2002. On May 22, 2002 the NMMA issued a NMMA Action Alert press release saying the proposal raises the question of whether the risk justifies the cost of regulation and encourages the industry to voice their objections. Houseboats have long had special risks in this area. Swimmers are often near them or climbing on them, they move infrequently, poor visibility of the props from the operating station, their engines are not as loud in the water as those of smaller craft, few visual indicators to swimmers the boat is about to get underway and large, slow rotating props may be more likely to draw people into them. The list of remedies proposed by the Coast Guard, does not include sensor based prop guards.

The official notices concerning the proposed houseboat propeller safety regulation are below:

  • Federal Requirements for Proposed Injury Avoidance Measures Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Published in the 10 Dec 2001 Federal Register. Pg. 63650-63651. This regulation specifically addresses houseboats. The Coast Guard extended the comment period with an announcement in the 26 March 2002 Federal Register. Pg. 13,738. Comments to the Docket above can be viewed by entering “10163” and selecting USCG as the agency in the search boxes at regulations.gov
  • Federal Requirements for Propeller Injury Avoidance Measures: Notice of proposed rulemaking withdrawn. Federal Register 18 Oct 2007.

Note we have an extensive report on this proposed regulation titled, Houseboat Propeller Safety Regulations Proposed and Withdrawn by USCG: An Analysis by the Propeller Guard Information Center.

Many public comment letters on the proposed houseboat regulation are discussed in detail in our analysis of the houseboat regulation. We commented on Virtual Propeller Guards and pointing out how current regulations provide an incentive for drive manufacturers NOT to develop effective propeller guards. There was also an interesting letter from Joseph Greenleaf in which the last four pages included a narrative of several pontoon boat propeller accidents (pontoon boats were originally included in the earlier NPRM but dropped from 10163.

In addition to the Coast Guard references above, Congress held a boating safety hearing that also covered propeller injury issues in 2001. Congressional Hearing on Boating Safety. Recreational Boating Safety (107-20) Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. House of Representatives. One Hundred Seventh Congress. First Session. 15 May 2001.


Bumper Boats

Although the Propeller Guard Information Center focuses on traditional, powered recreational boats, we did notice some discussion of propeller safety regulations on bumper boats such as at amusement parks.


Historical Boating Safety Regulations

  • Federal Boating Safety Act (FBSA) of 1971
  • Federal Boating Act of 1958
  • Motorboat Act of 1940
  • Motorboat Act of 1910

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